Realizing Your Best and Highest Use: Your Key to Success as a Company, Executive or Consultant
by Andy Birol

To achieve professional and corporate development we are told that if we: "Follow our passion." "Find our focus." and "Have fun." success will follow. Yet many intelligent and driven executives, consultants or companies are frustrated with this. How can something so simple be so unobtainable and so hard to execute? It is understandable that most people react with avoidance or anger when given simple advice and no way to take it. Personally, the next time I hear "Pursue your dream" coming out of the mouth of a motivational speaker I am going to chase him out of the room!

Most every person and every organization is partially focused. Despite achieving some level of success, many companies, executives and consultants still have a fuzzy professional reason for being. And most pursue this quarter's objectives, assuming that achieving these will lead to success and happiness. Without defaulting to the spiritual for answers, let me suggest a practical and secular solution. If a company, executive or consultant can uncover their best and highest use, there is a much higher chance they will be successful, achieve their objectives, and have fun. It is logical that if we focus on what we think we do well and another individual or company values this activity, satisfaction will increase. So, simply stated, if any individual or company focuses on their best and highest use, good things are more likely to happen.

What is Your Best and Highest Use?

For both individuals and organizations it is when:

  • "Your best" represents your preferred choice amongst the things you do well;
  • "Highest" represents that most valued by employers, customers or partners;
  • "Use" is the value you provide to others.

In the case of a company's best and highest use, it is where the mission and vision statement hit reality: Can you or your company do it? Does anyone out there want it?

How to Determine Your Best and Highest Use

  1. Document all the challenges, situations and tasks where you have succeeded. Make a list of all the practical and impractical things you do well. For example, until recently, Firestone successfully maintained long-term relationships with Ford. Tylenol succeeded in handling the tampering incident that would have destroyed most other brands. Both companies can build on these experiences.

  2. List all the tasks, relationships and experiences that you have enjoyed. Look for examples in all aspects of your personal, professional or corporate life. When we watch Charlton Heston serve as president of the NRA, he is enjoying this role as much as he did playing Ben Hur. My former employer, NEBS, takes pride in replacing the business forms their customers lose in natural disasters such as floods. This enjoyment drives future success, confidence and self-esteem.

  3. Discover all the things your clients, customers and staff like about you. Whatever the cost, have someone else question your constituents. The feedback is always remarkable. My client, Inside Prospects may have the best list of businesses in Cleveland. But their customers swear by the personal service and care that their president, Sandy Szuch provides on any project, whether or not it involves a list.

  4. Understand your strengths. Distill what you have learned through the above and simplify it wherever possible. For example, GE, based on its reputation, resources and breadth of businesses can truly claim to "Bring good things to life". Locally, the Browns have recognized and exploited the strong support of their football fans as they rebuild the franchise.

  5. Stop dwelling on your weaknesses and know your blind spots. Too many organizations are proud of themselves in ways that don’t matter or try to become things they can’t. The fact a business is family-held or has survived for 100 years rarely matters to outsiders. Having dinner at a Red Lobster provides another example. When I go, I expect to enjoy inexpensive seafood in a rushed, impersonal atmosphere. When my waitress attempts to develop a relationship with me it is annoying. But many companies waste millions promoting such irrelevant features and services to their customers. Dwell on your strengths.

  6. Synthesize, apply and focus. Again, with an objective outsider, put it all together. The combination of your company’s skills, experience and expertise stated in terms of what an employer, customer, prospect or a marketplace wants is where to focus. Here are some examples: Mike Tyson’s skill of intimidating people applied inside the boxing ring; Martha Stewart’s ability to define grace in everyday living leveraged across her homemaking product empire; Microsoft’s expertise at exploiting other developers’ inventions into tools required by every business.

Conclusion

When you have determined and applied the above steps, you will be surprised at the results. Your confidence and comfort zone will increase with the affirmation you receive from your employers, customers and partners. And, in turn, you will not feel so dependent on individual buyers or employers because if they don’t value your services, others will. So, as an individual, a department or an organization, focus on your best and highest use. The results will be success. And all those motivational speakers won’t bother you any more!


Andy Birol is a Cleveland-based business growth consultant, owner of Birol Growth Consulting and author of "Focus. Accomplish. Grow… The Business Owner's Guide to Growth." He holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and has been published in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fortune Small Business and many more. In 2002, his firm won the Weatherhead 100 Award as Northeast Ohio's fastest growing single-employee business. A guest expert on CNN's Dollar Signs, NPR, and NBC, Andy comments on national and local issues facing business owners who want to grow their businesses. Andy can be reached by visiting his website at www.andybirol.com or at abirol@andybirol.com .

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